FECL 41 (February 1996):


A report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment (ECPT), an institution of the Council of Europe, sharply criticises detention conditions in a number of Paris police stations and in the infamous Dépôt des étrangers, a special detention centre for deportees (see FECL No.35: "Judges challenge police on Pasqua law"). The report dates from the late summer 1994. But only on 22 January 1996 did the Government allow its publication.


The report makes particular mention of the difficulties encountered by the representatives of the ECPT, in obtaining access to various detention locals during their visit to Paris in July 1994. The authors complain that, at one police station, the personnel made them wait for more than an hour and seemed reluctant to present the register of detainees. "Such a denial of rapid access to places of detention is incompatible" with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights", the report notes.

The report is no more lenient with regard to its actual subject, the conditions of detention. Concerning the situation in the Dépôt, it says that "outdoor exercise for the detainees was limited to entering a little barred cage situated at the end of each room", and that no progress had been made since the ECTP's last inspections in 1991 and 1993 with regard to activities proposed to the detainees: "In short, they passed almost all of their time locked up in their cells, in total inactivity".

In another local, detainees complained about medical treatment for serious diseases, namely Aids and tuberculosis, being interrupted. The great majority of detainees said they had never seen a doctor, even after having explicitly demanded this.

The ECPT notes "considerable deficiencies" in a number of inspected police localities with regard to hygienic conditions and the dimension of cells (between 2.5 and 5 square metres). All the cells of the 3rd and 4th division of the Police Judiciaire were dirty, insufficiently lit up and aerated.

The ECPT further found that "a number of persons claimed they had not received anything to eat, or even to drink" during their arrest. In some cases these allegations were confirmed by the personnel.

The report reiterates earlier concern of the ECPT regarding police brutality, namely allegations of slaps in the face, punches and baton strokes.

In a reply of 19 April 1995, the French Government expressed its "regrets" about the difficulties of access encountered by the ECTP and announced a series of measures aimed at improving detention conditions.

The Dépôt was closed down "for renovation" in April 1995 after massive criticism by French human rights organisations. The centre is to be reopened by the end of September this year. According to the government its "mode of functioning" will be "reconsidered". Among other things, the cells will be equipped for four persons instead of 13, as before.

The French government, however refrained from an answer concerning alleged police brutality.


Source: Le Monde, 24.1.96.